4 steps for entrepreneurs to beat stress

Anis Qizilbash shares four tips for entrepreneurs to shift from surviving to thriving.

You finally land a client for your new product. This high-profile client will inject the much-needed cash into your business, but more importantly, the social proof to win many more contracts. For months you busy away, investing time and resources to create the product.

Less than a month from deadline, the client emails you:

We don’t have £25,000, we only have £18,000. It was an oversight. Is this okay? How would you like to move forward?

Or someone reports your phone stolen so the phone company disables your work mobile.

Or your website gets hacked, so you have to spend half a day figuring out the problem and finding someone to fix it.

Or one of your suppliers, half-way around the world, suffers a power cut, earthquake, disaster, and now you have to move your deadline out by an indefinite period of time.

How do you stop stressful situations from derailing your days?

Let’s meet a key character in this drama.

Meet the Hammer, my nickname for the amygdala, almond-shaped part of your brain that houses the fear center. Stress unleashes the Hammer, pounding your body with stress hormones that cause your heart rate and blood pressure to spike; your body is getting ready to fight, freeze or flee. This heightened state increases your sensitivity to anything that might normally trigger aggression.

More important to the entrepreneur, this stress also reduces your wiser cognitive functions. When the Hammer is deployed, your only objective is survival, which is why when you’re stressed you are more likely to say something snarky and act selfishly. You’re unable to access self-control, empathy and problem-solving, all the cognitive functions crucial to growing your fledging business.

Shift from survive to thrive

1. Notice

You can’t change what you can’t see, so first you need to notice you are stressed.

Is your breathing shallower?

Is your heart racing?

Are you feeling tense?

These are all clues.

2. Make Space to Watch

In my book Mindful Selling I mention a principle called Make Space to Watch, referring to your thoughts. Doing so creates a tiny separation between you and the stressful emotion so you can assess whether your actions will create the outcome you really want. So get some air or cup of coffee.

3. Still the noise

After making space between you and the stressful thoughts, still the noise by listening to your breathing for one minute. You can only pay attention to one thing at a time, so when you focus on your breathing, you’re unable to give stressful thoughts the energy they need to pull you down.

4. Solution-focused questions

Our habitual thoughts in stressful situations often feed ill feelings - why does this happen to me? or this is so unfair - which prolong the negative spiral. Pick more solution-focused questions, like how can I use this to achieve a positive outcome? or how can I make this situation a win for both of us?

As entrepreneurs, our chosen path is paved with uncertainty. We are challenged daily and no matter how hard we try, we cannot control people, circumstances, or events. We can, however, control how we respond.

When stressed, we tend to go into autopilot survival mode. But when you’re mindful, you always have a choice. You can either let the stress take over and survive or be aware and thrive.




Anis Qizilbash is a motivational speaker, author of Mindful Selling, and hosts Coffee & Wisdom Show, sharing weekly wellbeing snacks to enjoy with your coffee. Follow Anis on Twitter and LinkedIn.